We are excited to begin our #LatinoLit Author Series, where we will explore the issues related to the digital world, social media, and the printed word. Our series begins with Raul Ramos y Sanchez, the award-winning author of AMERICA LIBRE and HOUSE DIVIDED, which will launch in January 28. The books cover a world where extreme views lead to a civil war in the United States. We had a chance to interview Ramos y Sanchez about the role of social media in promoting an author’s work.
#LatinoLit Talks with Raul Ramos y Sanchez
#LatinoLit: Social media continues to grow in influence and scope. Can it be effective in selling books or do you think social media is sometimes overhyped?
Ramos y Sanchez: In my opinion, social media is not a magic bullet for authors but more of a “force magnifier” as the military is fond of saying. Social media allows the relatively small number of well-known authors at the top of the pyramid to leverage their fame through a channel that gives them direct access to their fans without the mainstream media. That’s very seductive — but it can also create thorny results (as you have so well chronicled in the continuing story of Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Encanto and NBC). J.K. Rowling is another example of celebrity author primacy in social media. She follows no one yet has nearly 300,000 Twitter followers thanks to a total of five tweets, all of which essentially say “you won’t hear much from me, I’m busy writing.” (No disrespect to Ms. Rowling. She’s earned that privilege through her exceptional work.)
For emerging authors, who make up the base of the pyramid, social media is an entirely different animal. We are not guaranteed an instant following once we hang out a social media shingle. All the same, emerging authors willing to work hard and be innovative will find social media provides an unprecedented opportunity to connect with readers and, perhaps just as importantly, network with influential people who can help create more exposure through other channels.
Social media is still a wide open field, ripe for experimentation for authors at every level. As part of the launch of my second novel, HOUSE DIVIDED, in late January, I’ve created a PDF Sneak Preview of the novel’s first chapter available by “liking” HOUSE DIVIDED on Facebook. I’m inviting my social media friends to read the first chapter, and if they’ve enjoyed it, to share the PDF Sneak Preview with their friends. It’s a social media variation of viral marketing that could become a staple for book launches if it works. If not, well, there’s a whole new sea of opportunities still out there waiting to be discovered. We’re all still charting new waters in social media.
#LatinoLit: Your first novel, AMERICA LIBRE, earned a long list of awards mostly from Latino organizations and received considerable media attention, again primarily from Hispanic media sources. Do you think your novels are marketable to mainstream readers?
Ramos y Sanchez: I certainly hope so! But it’s important to recognize minority authors face a unique challenge. Most minority readers I know buy books from both mainstream and minority authors. But I sense many mainstream readers feel that minority authors are not really writing for them, that their work is exclusively for their own group. That’s a double whammy–especially for emerging minority authors who face competition from established mainstream authors within their own group but are at a great disadvantage among mainstream readers. I say this with well-known minority authors like Walter Mosley and Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez as the few exceptions which prove the rule.
My novels are written for a crossover audience, which reflects my personal history. I was born in Cuba, arrived in the U.S. at seven and have lived in the Midwest most of my life. English is my primary language and I eat beans and cornbread as often as black beans and rice. So when I write, it’s from a point of view steeped in both cultures. Still, I face the uphill battle of making mainstream readers understand my novels are written for them as much as for Latinos. Ultimately, it will take more mainstream readers willing to extend their comfort zone. If they do, I believe a number of minority authors will provide them with a pleasant surprise.
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